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Matthias Becher; translated by David S. Bachrach

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An authoritative new life of one of the most important figures of history

Charlemagne—ruler of the vast Frankish kingdom from 768 to his death in 814 and Holy Roman emperor from the year 800—is considered the father of Europe. He founded the first empire in western Europe after the fall of Rome, and his court at Aix-la-Chapelle was a center of classical learning and a focus of the Carolingian Renaissance. This book is a splendid introduction to Charlemagne’s life and legend. Matthias Becher describes Charlemagne’s rise to emperor and traces his political and military maneuvering against the Saxons, the Lombards, and others, as Charlemagne incorporated these lands into his own realm. Becher points out that under Charlemagne, jury courts were introduced, the laws of the Franks revised and written down, new coinage introduced, weights and measures reformed, and a Frankish grammar begun. Charlemagne tried to give his kingdom a spiritual basis by referring to antique traditions, says Becher, and he explores the tensions that existed in Charlemagne’s court between modern ideas and traditional thinking. He concludes by discussing Charlemagne’s kinship network, the evolving arrangements for his succession, the effects of his reign, and his posthumous fame. Concise, insightful, and eminently readable, this biography of Charlemagne provides a wealth of information about a remarkable man and his times.

Matthias Becher is professor of medieval history at the Universität Bonn, Germany.

"A remarkably informed, informative, and admirably up-to-date ‘personal interpretation’ of the Frankish emperor’s character, reign, and legacy. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Becher succeeds in combining a masterful account of the life stages of the ‘powerful figure’ and the myth of Charlemagne with a precise and impressive representation of his era."—Die Zeit

"An excellent introduction."—Historical Association Review

"A solid overview of the reign of Charlemagne. . . . The text serves as a solid introduction to one of the most important historical figures for any European country. . . . Easily accessible and is written well enough to hold the reader's interest. Becher is careful not to get bogged down in minutiae and is able to show Charlemagne as a human ruler with faults, but also with an ability to rise above them. The organizational style of the book also lends itself well to accessibility of information, making this text an excellent reference tool."—Jolyon Timothy Hughes, Rocky Mountain News
ISBN: 9780300097962
Publication Date: September 10, 2003
176 pages, 5.5 x 8.5
8 b/w illus.